"Siberia" -- It may not have the built-in fan base of "Under the Dome," but NBC's "Siberia" could be just as much fun. Sixteen contestants are dropped in the middle of a Siberian forest with a camera crew and not much else. The goal: to survive long enough to claim the $500,000 prize. The pilot sets up a convincing, if a tad unregulated (there are no rules save do you what you must to survive), reality show, except that's not what's happening here. Created by newcomer Matthew Arnold, "Siberia" is a horror-drama, with creepy-woods top notes of "Blair Witch Project" and the production value of the short-lived monster mess, "The River."
Both of which I loved, by the way, flaws and all. Although bloody horror abounds on television these days, there aren't too many shows that provide good old-fashioned scare tactics. "Siberia" may wind up going bloody and gross (I hope not), but the pilot leans heavily on things that rustle and howl in the dark. The reality angle gives the show a playful edge, with the contestants clearly representing the various types these shows inevitably have, but Arnold is so sincere in his writing that it's easy to forget there is a traditional script at work.
If you're the sort of viewer who cannot understand why anyone would continue on a spooky quest or if you're put off by scenes of a vague shape scuttling out of frame from a dropped camera, then "Siberia" is probably not for you. Me, I was hooked the moment the Adonis-like Aussie host explained that the players would be housed in a settlement from which the inhabitants had mysteriously vanished 100 years ago, leaving food on tables and fires burning etc, etc. If only "Croatoan" had been carved into a post, as it was at the lost colony of Roanoke (and then again in Stephen King's excellent mini-series "Storm of the Century.") But then, it's early; who knows what lurks just there outside the safety of the fire's glow. NBC, Mondays, 10 p.m.
"Ray Donovan" -- Showtime battles back to the big leagues with a dark and astonishingly multifaceted drama about an L.A.-based super fixer and all the very broken people that he loves. As the tough but essentially decent guy who A-listers call when a hooker overdoses in their bed, Liev Schreiber's Ray Donovan is, unarguably, the latest in a long line of complicated heroes. But for all its voyeuristic pleasures, "Ray Donovan" is a family drama. Ray is not only devoted to his wife and kids, he's still playing big brother to Terry (Eddie Marsan), a former boxer now battling Parkinsons, and Bunchy (Dash Minok), whose childhood abuse at the hands of a priest left him a constantly slipping addict. Always complicated, Ray's life threatens to boil over when his father (Jon Voight) is released early from prison. A story that could easily collapse under its own weight is held aloft by both great writing and absorbing performances from the entire cast (though you do get the feeling that Schreiber, Voight and Marsan could sit together and read Get This Look lists aloud and it would be worth watching.) Showtime, Sundays, 10 p.m.
"Endeavor" is back on Masterpiece and that's a good thing, especially for the many "Inspector Morse" fans. A prequel to the beloved television adaptations of the Colin Dextor novels, the pilot, starring Shaun Evans as iconic British police detective Endeavor Morse in his early days, debuted last year. Now there are four more mysteries to solve, four more chances to watch a great detective evolve, and a second season in the offing. PBS, Sundays, 9 p.m.
And keep watching:
"The Killing," which has a poignant and powerful story line about the plight of street kids in Seattle in addition to the best detective team since Sculley and Mulder. AMC, Sundays, 9 p.m.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun